Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council unveiled its Top-10 Food Trends for 2023 this week, the eighth annual installment. The Trends Council--a collective of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members, including local foragers, regional and global buyers, and culinary experts, compile trend predictions based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences, as well as in-depth workshopping with emerging and existing brands.
“Our trends predictions are an exciting look at where we believe both product innovation and customer preferences are headed in the coming year. We anticipate seeing these trends in the food industry at large, on dinner tables, in lunch boxes and on our store shelves,” said Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, chief marketing officer, Whole Foods Market. “We’re thrilled to see things like baked goods with upcycled pulp from plant-based milks and ingredients like farmed kelp continue to gain popularity. From product labels that include sustainability efforts to poultry and egg suppliers that are leading the way in animal welfare, many of this year’s trends predictions showcase brands on a mission to make a true impact.”
Every year when this forecast comes out, I like to provide dairy processors with innovative ideas to bring the predictions to life in the refrigerated and frozen dairy departments. Here you go!
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Trend #1: The New Brew is Yaupon. Yaupon is a holly bush found in the southeastern U.S. and is North America’s only known native caffeinated plant. Indigenous Americans brewed it into herbal tea, which is how it got the nickname of America’s forgotten tea. With its mild, earthy flavor and concentrated antioxidants, yaupon is gaining momentum on cocktail menus and has potential in other applications.
Opportunity: Lick Honest Ice Creams in Austin, Texas, has offered yaupon matcha chip ice cream as a limited-edition concept. The artisan ice cream maker describes it as “an East-meets-West flavor,” with “chocolate and yaupon a perfect match(a).” Recognizing that yaupon goes well with chocolate, beverage opportunities exist with ready-to-drink yaupon mocha lattes and even premium yaupon chocolate milk. Trend #2: Pulp with Purpose.
One in three consumers uses a nondairy milk alternative at least once a week according to a recent poll from Morning Consult. But what about the often-wasted by-products of their production? TikTok creators are exploring ways to use leftover nut and oat pulp at home, and we’re now seeing an influx of brands begin to innovate in the space, too. By upcycling by-products like oat, soy and almond pulp, brands are creating new products for the modern baker. Think alternative flours, baking mixes and ready-to-eat sweets.
Opportunity: What goes better with an upcycled oats chocolate chip cookie than a cold glass of dairy milk? Just saying. But seriously, upcycled milk alternative pulp may be used in the manufacture of inclusions for ice cream and yogurt.
Renewal Mill, an upcycled ingredient supplier, partnered with artisan ice cream maker Salt & Straw earlier this year to create a custom chef-driven vegan ice cream flavor: Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcake. It is made using Renewal Mill’s bestselling baking mix, Dark Chocolate Brownie.
There are other upcycling opportunities, too. Beckon now uses upcycled imperfectly shaped peanut butter cups in its Lactose Free Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. And, Frozen Farmer uses imperfect fruits and vegetables in its made-from-scratch frozen desserts.
Trend #3: Produce Meets Pasta. First it was chickpea pasta, then cauliflower gnocchi. Now there’s a new crop of plant-based pasta alternatives to help us all up our veggie and fruit intake, with ingredients like spaghetti squash, hearts of palm and even green bananas.
Opportunity: What about produce meets cones? Imagine a frozen novelty cone made from green banana flour? Don’t say gross! Who ever thought cauliflower pizza crust would be mainstream?
Trend #4: The Great Date. In spring 2022, dates went viral on TikTok when a creator shared a Snickers-like recipe using the fruit. But the craze for dates isn’t new. They’ve been cultivated and enjoyed since the days of ancient Mesopotamia. Now, thousands of years later, the dehydrated fruit that has classic caramel notes and is often referred to as “nature’s candy,” is having a major renaissance as a sweetener, not only for at-home bakers, but also in the form of pastes and syrups, and hidden in everything from ketchup to overnight oats.
There are many ways to use dates in dairy. Dates pair well with other flavors, too. Think date walnut ice cream and date orange yogurt. Date milk, it is a real thing in the Middle East. And this is not dates squeezed into a beverage. It’s real dairy milk blended with date slurry. And the coffee bar at Whole Foods Market has Date Cardamom Latte on its menu this holiday season.
Trend #5: A Poultry Revolution. More and more consumers believe chickens should be able to act like chickens, so they’re prioritizing welfare when shopping for both poultry and eggs.
Opportunity: Let’s talk about our cows!
Trend #6: Help from Kelp. In its original form, kelp can absorb carbon in the atmosphere, making kelp farming more important than ever in the age of climate consciousness. Kelp grows quickly, doesn’t require freshwater or added nutrients, and is nutritious and versatile in food products. We’re seeing it in noodles, chips, fish-free “fish” sauce and beyond. As consumers seek out alternative ingredients and experiment with new flavors, kelp-inspired foods are gaining popularity.
Kelp Ice Cream, it is a thing in Canada. Sea Forest manufactures Coastal Crème, an ice cream that caters to the adventurous palate and delivers a depth of unique flavor. It’s described as “a bit of sweetness twirled into the briny, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.” The ice cream is packed with nutrients, including vitamin B12. What about kelp yogurt smoothies?
Trend #7: Climate-Conscious Callouts. Climate consciousness is more relevant than ever, and as a result, brands are working to improve the impact of food and beverage production. Across the aisles, products are taking to their labels to talk about sustainability efforts in a time when consumers expect brands and retailers to do more related to carbon and climate.
Opportunity: Communicate what your brand is doing!
Trend #8: Retro Remix.
Mac and cheese, pizza bites, classic old-school cereals and more. According to Mintel Global Consumer research, 73% of U.S. consumers enjoy things that remind them of their past, setting the stage for these nostalgic treats to go mainstream. The twist? Retro products are being reinvented with consideration for the wellness-conscious customer, creating the ultimate mash-up of throwback indulgences with better ingredients and special diets in mind.
Opportunity: There’s so many opportunities for dairy when it comes to retro. Just look back at products your brand made 50 years ago and give them a face lift.
Trend #9: Only the Finest for Fido.
More than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the ASPCA. Now, with a return to the office for many pet parents, a focus on Fido’s wellness and palate is more important than ever.
Opportunity: There’s dog ice cream. There’s dog and cat milk and kefir. There’s even dog cheese. It’s all about the humanization of pet food.
Trend #10: Avocado Oil Craze. A staple on our shelves for years, avocado oil is finally going mainstream in packaged products across the board. It has some big positive attributes—including high oleic fatty acid content and a high smoke point—to thank for its popularity.
Opportunity: While most standard-of-identity dairy foods do not allow the addition of non-dairy fat or oil into the product, that does not mean you cannot combine dairy and avocado. Just break out of your comfort zone and get creative.
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